The Wisconsin legislature will this week consider legislation that would significantly curb the state’s campaign finance regulatory capabilities. The measures in question would remove contribution limits for state political parties and campaign committees, allowing those entities to amass and spend unchecked funds. In addition, candidates would be allowed to coordinate with political interest groups, so long as those organizations avoid express advocacy — calls to “vote for” or “vote against” a specific candidate — in their advertisements.
These proposals would remove any illusion of separation between campaigns and outside organizations, allowing the two groups to work on “issue advocacy” ads that all but endorse the candidate. Without anti-coordination laws, it is next to impossible to effectively regulate political campaigns. Additionally, allowing unlimited contributions to political parties would let donors bypass campaign contribution limits, making those restrictions effectively meaningless. In passing this legislation, Wisconsin would be hindering its campaign finance apparatus precisely at the moment when states and cities around the country need to focus on implementing actionable solutions to empower all Americans.